Ecotherapy and Our Wellbeing
“Health is not just the outcome of biological or genetic process in our bodies but is also influenced by the social and economic conditions in which we live”.
To appreciate the truth of that quote, look at this analogy. Two people with identical genetic makeup are brought up in two different environments, one is a regular businessman in a suit and an office in the middle of New York City’s hustle and bustle while the other is somewhere in Big Bear Lake as a Yoga trainer all his life.
What will happen at the end of the day is one of them will be healthier in both soul and body, less prone to depression and with a better immune system than the other. There are chances that he will live longer, happier and most likely with a better look than the other. I’m sure you guess right which of them I’m referring to. Now you get the gist!
In the world we live in today, it is quite sad that even experts have failed to consider the environmental factor as one of the most important to the total well-being of a man. In the quest to live better lives, men have drifted from their source, slowly and continually drifting away from Mother Nature with advancement in technology. There would have been no need for the word “Ecotherapy” if men had a healthy interaction with nature.
What is Ecotherapy?
Ecotherapy, which could also be referred to as green exercise, green care, or green therapy, is an umbrella term for a wide range of treatment programs that aim to improve our physical and mental well-being by practicing some outdoor activities in nature. When we connect with nature in this way, we stand the chance for several positive health benefits including helping to manage an existing mental health problem, and prevent future health issues such as depression and anxiety.
While ecotherapy can be used alone, using it alongside other treatments such as holistic therapies, can also perform a great magic on our health.
What Are the Different Types of Ecotherapy?
There are several types of ecotherapy incorporating different activities. Below are a few examples:
#1: Adventure Therapy
It is usually done in a group, and could involve some fairly adventurous physical activities incorporated with psychological exercises. This type of ecotherapy usually involves activities such as rock climbing or rafting, which focus on learning how to build trust and raise confidence.
#2: Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI)
This involves spending time with animals. It may require you to be in places such as farms where you could come into contact with animals. You will need to spend some time with the animals, petting and feeding them. It can be used to improve coordination and assist mobility.
#3: Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT)
This involves building a therapeutic relationship with animals such as dogs and horses. It is often led by an experienced therapist and focuses on the bonding and interaction between you and the animal. It could involve only you or done in a group.
#4: Wilderness Therapy
Wilderness therapy is simply being out in the wild. It could involve spending some quality time in the wild with a group doing physical and group-building activities like making shelters or hiking. This type of therapy helps you feel confident in outdoor environments and aims to boost your self-awareness and get rid of mental blocks that are holding you back.
#5: Green Exercise Therapy
This is doing exercise in nature. It could involve doing some physical activities like running, walking, or cycling. The walk could range from gentle strolls to strenuous hiking.
#6: Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH)
This involves gardening or food cultivation in allotments. It is usually done outside in community gardens or in nurseries. It could also be inside village halls and libraries.
How Does Ecotherapy Impact Our Wellbeing?
There could be a range of reasons people practice ecotherapy. However, there are some benefits embedded in the practice that could help positively impact our overall wellbeing by improving our health, social life, and mental health. Below are a few ways ecotherapy could be the magic you need for an improved overall wellbeing.
- Improves mental health
By helping you see an alternative perspective on life and helping your body relax, ecotherapy can help reduce anger, depression, feelings of anxiety and stress, boost your mood and get your emotional resilience increased. It provides a therapeutic space where you don’t have to think or talk about your problems but a space to develop new interests, learn new skills and make new friends. That’s a great way to help our mental health.
- Help improve physical health
By providing regular opportunities for physical exercise, ecotherapy can improve your physical health. It gives you the avenue to use up excess hormones in your body, relax your nervous system by providing a calm and natural environment to relate with. It also boosts your stamina and fitness.
- Ecotherapy can also help develop your social life
- Build confidence
- Strengthen your connection with nature and
- Help you practice mindfulness.
Jenny Smith. (2015). Making sense of ecotherapy. National Association for Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.mind.org.uk/media/2699029/making-sense-of-ecotherapy-2015.pdf
Craig Chalquist. (2009 June). A Look at the Ecotherapy Research Evidence. Original Article; John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, California. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3fdf/90202183b73c63cc6feee337faada0b9eef0.pdf
Good therapy. (2016 Sept). Ecotherapy / Nature Therapy. Ecotherapy.org. Retrieved from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/econature-therapy